Combining elements of mystery, adventure, and danger, suspense books tap into psychological and subconscious tensions. Transparent clues and red herrings fill a variety of settings, including historical, romantic, legal, medical, and simple everyday situations. This genre puts you right into the action, so you follow the crime or feel the protagonist's unease.

Whether or not the stories end in cliffhangers or tidy answers, are stand-alone or inspire sequels or cross-overs, mystery suspense books contain several compelling ingredients. The investigators often display relatable emotions, wrestling with their own anxieties or conflicts as they try to solve a case. Sue Grafton's spunky private investigator, Kinsey Millhone, the lead in her Alphabet series, contends with divorce, dating, and family issues. Ruth Rendell's Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford tries to balance the different relationships he has with each of his daughters.

In addition to his influence on horror, Edgar Allan Poe also shaped the suspense genre with stories such as The Tell-Tale Heart and The Black Cat. Paranoia, guilt, and madness abounds, common traits in Scott Turow's and John Grisham's legal thrillers. Right alongside Poe's royal status within collectible suspense books is the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Her legendary catalogue includes Appointment with Death, At Bertram's Hotel, and By the Pricking of My Thumbs, which show off the Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and power couple Tommy and Tuppence characters, respectively. Themes set by these classics resonate in the prolific writings of James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, David Baldacci, and Mary Higgins Clark.

Given the richly detailed descriptions, many narratives are adapted into alternative media. When deciding to buy suspense books, you may recognize having seen movies of Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley (part of her Ripliad series), and the cinema and TV telling of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lector. Check AbeBooks for the original novels, along with other hardcovers and paperbacks that showcase memorable characters.